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Tribune Broadcasting Supports FAIR Ratings Bill

Jul 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Tribune Broadcasting Co. has announced its support for a bill that would mandate accreditation by the congressionally created Media Rating Council before television ratings services are launched. The bill, submitted July 1 by Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., is called the FAIR Ratings Act (for Fairness, Accuracy, Inclusivity and Responsiveness in Ratings).

Tribune and some other Nielsen Media Research clients unsuccessfully tried to get Nielsen to agree it would not launch its controversial Local People Meters in any more markets unless the LPM service has been accredited by the MRC. Nielsen, which traditionally receives accreditation after any of its services is operating, delayed the debut of LPMs in Washington and Philadelphia by a month but launched the LPMs without accreditation in both cities June 30.

News Corp. was the first of Nielsen’s clients to publicly charge that the switch from diary-meter service to meter-only LPMs is resulting in the undercounting of viewing by African Americans and Hispanics.

“Nielsen appears unconcerned about ensuring the appearance of accuracy and integrity for its television audience measurement system, despite longstanding congressional intent that ratings measurement be subject to certification by an independent body,” Tribune said in a statement released Wednesday. “Tribune Broadcasting supports this bill, which requires prior accreditation of television ratings and gives the MRC the right and the ability to enforce its decisions.”

Nielsen released a statement that said: “Nielsen’s responsibility is to provide independent, accurate television ratings. To do so, it must be able to keep pace with evolving television technology by working voluntarily and cooperatively with its clients. This bill, however, would benefit only those companies who want to maintain the status quo in the television industry. It would introduce more federal regulation of television, more bureaucracy, slower introduction of new technology, higher costs, less competition, and less accurate ratings. It would also violate antitrust laws and transform the Media Rating Council into a virtual arm of the federal government. Further, it would force us to shut down our local Hispanic ratings services in 19 markets, which would harm many small Hispanic businesses. We continue to urge the bill’s supporters to reconsider their position in light of its damaging impact on the entire television industry.”